Columbines in full bloom along the trails delighted me today. This delicate tri-color bloom deserves its role as Colorado’s state flower.
Today I returned to Golden Gate Canyon State Park for the third time in less than three weeks. But this time I hiked to Frazer Meadow, which I hadn’t attempted since May 2006. It was difficult for me then, and I only hiked a couple of miles at that time.
Today I hiked about eight miles, and it was easy. Because the summer weather clouds over in the afternoons here, I made sure to get an early start, arriving at the trailhead just after 7.
But it wasn’t until 1:30 that I returned to my SUV. I didn’t mean to be gone that long. But on the return trip I missed the sign for the trail I wanted to take and ended up taking a circuit about three miles longer than I had planned. It was a good thing.
When I started up the Horseshoe Trail to Frazer Meadow, I was hiking in the shade of the aspen and pine forests for the first two miles, climbing from 8,140 to 9,050 feet. That early in the morning it was so cold that I could have used gloves. Dew was still on everything and when shafts of sunlight hit the flowers, they were particularly beautiful.
Here was the scene when I arrived at the meadow:
My destination today was to check out the Appalachian (3-sided) shelter just beyond Frazer Meadow. Soon I plan on backpacking without my heavy tent and spending the night in the shelter. The shelter passed my inspection:
Returning, I hiked down the Mule Deer Trail, planning to turn left after a couple of miles to the Black Bear Trail. But I was well down the mountain through a series of switchbacks before I knew that I had missed the trail junction. Rather than retrace my steps, I realized that I could take another trail (Blue Grouse) that would bring me out to the road at Kriley Pond. So I continued and was rewarded with several photographs, including this view of the nearby Rockies:
When I got to the road, I was still about three miles from my SUV. But I only had to walk 0.4 mile on the road, from Kriley Pond to Slough Pond. There the Beaver Trail paralleled the road for a mile.
In was only 17 days earlier that I had hiked that trail. At that time I must have seen 400 fairy slipper orchids. There wasn’t a single one to be seen today, and I looked closely.
Instead, I found almost as many columbines as I had found in the morning on the Horseshoe Trail. But there were no columbines in bloom 17 days earlier on the Beaver Trail. The flowering season is certainly short, which is why I am making the most of it now.
While the Beaver Trail terminates at the visitor center, another trail picks up from there. I didn’t know it was there until I got to the trailhead, because it’s not on any maps. I was delighted to find it because it identifies many of the flowers and trees that grow there.
The nature trail in turn terminates at the Ralston Roost trailhead, where I started up the Black Bear Trail that I had missed from its other end. Soon I was able to pick up an unnamed lateral trail that took me right back to Suzy.
So, instead of fireworks, this wonderful hike was how I celebrated Independence Day. This day is especially important for me, because 32 years earlier, I got my independence from my job working for the government. On that day, the 200th anniversary of our country’s independence, I celebrated in Washington, D.C., by seeing the biggest fireworks display in our history.
But these flowers are more beautiful than any fireworks. Especially the columbines. You can’t imagine how much willpower it took me to send you only three photos of them: